Reagan Unveils New Budget Plan
Washington--The Reagan Administration strategy for enacting additional reductions in 1982 federal spending emerged on Capitol Hill last week, and observers were predicting it would create a power struggle between the President and Congress similar to that surrounding the "omnibus" budget bill last summer.
According to a document prepared by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Administration will propose that as many as 13 appropriations bills be lumped into a "continuing resolution" that would include $10-to-$15 billion in program reductions beyond those passed by Congress in July.
The new "package" bill would circumvent the normal appropriations process by allowing spending levels for most programs to be determined by a single vote.
In anticipation of the Administration's move last week, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees were attempting to speed up passage of their funding bills, including the education bill, to meet the Oct. 1 deadline for fiscal 1982. The bills were scheduled to be marked up late last week, with funding levels observers expected to be higher than the Administration requests.
If the President's proposed continuing resolution were enacted, spending for federal education programs could drop to $13.1 billion, $1.8 billion less than last year.
That figure, which represents President Reagan's original budget request of last March, is $2.65 billion less than the $15.7 billion authorized in July by Congress for education spending. (For the President's specific program requests last March, see chart on page 9.)
In addition, the Administration's latest proposal includes cuts beyond Mr. Reagan's original budget figures in two programs.
From the block grants package of 28 small programs, the President now wants to slash $30.9 million of the $566 million he initially requested. And from the National Center for Education Statistics and the National Institute of Education, he would subtract $6.3 million of the original $70.9-million request.
Edwin L. Dale Jr., a spokesman for OMB, said the Administration's proposal for a continuing resolution was prepared "as technical assistance" to the appropriations committees. He said the continuing resolution might take another form, depending on decisions of the House and Senate Republican leadership.
He also said the continuing resolution might contain a provision giving the President the power to impound up to 10 percent of the appropriated funds.
The power of impoundment was rescinded by Congress in 1974, after President Nixon had made wide use of it.
James Fabiani, an aide to Congressman Silvio Conte of Massachusetts, the ranking Republican on the House Appropriations subcommittee on education, predicted a long fight in Congress.
"If OMB can force Congress to let the Administration become the Appropriations Committee as well as the authorizing committee," he said, "then they've got it made. They have stacked that resolution against the committees, and they're going to try to tie the hands of Congress."
Mr. Fabiani said one provision in the continuing resolution's language, which would set spending levels at the "current rate or the rate provided for in the budget estimate, whichever is lower," would encounter stringent opposition.
'Budget Estimate' Tactic
The "budget estimate" provision, he said, would automatically set federal spending at the President's request, even if the committees recommend higher funding levels.
Continuing resolutions enacted in previous years generally set spending levels at the current rate or at the level set by the House Appropriations subcommittees, Mr. Fabiani said. He added,"I doubt if the Congress is going to go along with (the budget estimate language). I anticipate it will be changed."
John F. Jennings, staff director of the House Education subcommittee, predicted the President would allow the appropriations bills to pass with more than he requested.
"Then," he said, "Reagan will veto (the appropriations bills) and push the continuing resolution through. All the Administration needs is a majority in the House; they've shown they have it."
Vol. 01, Issue 02, Page 8